Nine U of A Students and Recent Alumni Receive NSF Fellowships

Nine U of A Students and Recent Alumni Receive NSF Fellowships
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nine University of Arkansas students – one undergraduate, five graduate students and three recent graduates – have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for the upcoming academic year. Each fellowship is worth $34,000 per year and can be renewed for up to three years. Along with the renewable stipend, each student’s institution will receive $12,000 per year to offset tuition costs, bringing the total amount of funding awarded to these nine students to more than $1.2 million. 

“The high caliber of our students, coupled with strong faculty mentorship, is a powerful recipe for our ability to compete successfully for these prestigious NSF graduate research fellowships,” said Kim Needy, dean of the Graduate School and International Education.

Since 1952, the National Science Foundation has awarded the highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship to nearly 50,000 students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields. The award recognizes not only academic excellence, but also the potential contribution that each student will make to his or her field and to society at large. As of 2015, 113 University of Arkansas students have received this prestigious fellowship.

“These awards are extremely competitive,” said John English, dean of the College of Engineering. “That our students win in such high numbers really speaks well of the students, the faculty, and the programs at the University of Arkansas. We are very proud of their accomplishments.”


  • Sarah Bilsky of Huntington Woods, Michigan, is currently a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Arkansas, where she conducts research with professors Ellen Leen-Feldner and Matthew Feldner. She received an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in 2011.
  • Calvin Johnson of Warner Robins, Georgia, is a master’s student in geology at the University of Arkansas. He conducts research with professor Gregory Dumond and graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2014.
  • Elizabeth Reese of Conway, Arkansas, graduated from the U of A with a B.S. in biology in 2012 and a B.A. in psychology in 2013. While a student here, she worked in professor Jennifer Veilleux’s Laboratory for Emotion and Addictive Processes. This fall, she will begin a doctoral program in clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. 
  • Sean Salazar of Fayetteville is a doctoral student in civil engineering at the University of Arkansas. As an undergraduate here, he was a member of the Honors College. He completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 2013 and currently works under professor Richard Coffman.
  • Andrew Sanders of Locust Grove, Oklahoma, graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.S. in biology in 2014. While at the U of A, he conducted research with professor Michelle Evans-White. He is currently a doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology at Dartmouth College.
  • Aaron Shew of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is a doctoral student in environmental dynamics at the University of Arkansas. He currently conducts research under professor Tom Paradise. He received his undergraduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University in 2011.
  • Rebecca Simpson of Cave Springs graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2013 with a B.A. in mathematics and a B.S. in biochemistry. As a member of the Honors College, she conducted undergraduate research with professor T.K.S. Kumar. She is currently a doctoral student in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology at Cornell University.
  • Bradley Wilson of Chicago, Illinois, is currently a geophysical engineering major at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He will begin working on a doctorate in geosciences at the U of A with professor Tom Paradise in the fall. In addition, he will work with the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies.
  • Mariel Young of Fort Smith graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arkansas with majors in anthropology and Spanish in 2013. While an undergraduate, she conducted research under professor Peter Ungar. In 2013, Young was named a Gates Cambridge Scholar, which allowed her to pursue a graduate degree at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. She is currently a doctoral student in human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. 

“Our students continue to amaze me,” said Todd Shields, dean of the J. Williams Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “They engage in research early and often. That’s what makes them competitive at the national level, and at the heart of the research enterprise for both students and faculty is the drive to find answers to compelling questions. These answers may someday bring about medical breakthroughs or help us build better roads or feed more people worldwide. It is important work, and these students are already incredible professionals.” 

Three recent graduates – Tobias Bothwell, Preston Scrape, and Michael Wyssman; three graduate students – Stephen Bauman, Gage Greening, and Kayla Skinner; and one undergraduate student – Michaela Mertz – received honorable mentions.

University of Arkansas students and recent alumni interested in applying for scholarships and fellowships such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship should contact the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards at or 479-575-3771. More information is available at

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Suzanne McCray, director
Office of Nationally Competitive Awards

Steve Voorhies, manager, media relations
University Relations


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